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Updated: September 19th, 2012 5:28pm
Notebook: Antoine Winfield decides staying quiet isn't best approach

Notebook: Antoine Winfield decides staying quiet isn't best approach

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Antoine Winfield did not want to get into specifics but the veteran cornerback did acknowledge Wednesday that he spoke for about 10 minutes Monday at a team meeting, a day after the Minnesota Vikings' 23-20 loss at Indianapolis.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 53-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Indianapolis the victory after the Vikings had tied the score on Kyle Rudolph's 6-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds remaining.

This came a week after the Vikings nearly lost to Jacksonville on a touchdown with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They did rally to win when rookie kicker Blair Walsh hit a field goal at the end of regulation and another in overtime.

"Did I," address the team? Winfield said, clearly a bit surprised that information had gotten out. "You heard about that? How did that get out? That's going to stay in that room."

Winfield would only say that his speech revolved around football matters. Winfield's 30-year-old brother, Anthony Travis, was shot and killed in Akron, Ohio, the week before the Vikings opened the regular season.

Winfield did acknowledge his speech came before the entire team, including general manager Rick Spielman and the coaching staff.

It isn't hard to figure out that the 35-year-old Winfield sees his career winding down and doesn't like the prospect of going through another losing season in his 14th year in the league. The Vikings have gone 6-10 and 3-13 the past two seasons.

"I'm only playing this game because I want to win a championship," he said. "It's not about the money anymore. I still love to play. I think I'm still productive. I think I can still play at a high level, so that's why I'm here."

Winfield said this was the second or third time he has decided to speak his mind before the entire team in his eight-plus seasons with the Vikings.

"I only stand up and say stuff when it's coming from the heart, when I think it needs to be said," Winfield said. "I don't get up there and stand up every week and say something. ... It's hard to win in this league. We could easily be 0-2. When there are games like that and it's on the line, where we have a chance to win, we need to win them."

Where are the ball hawks?

The Vikings have no interceptions through their first two games and now have only two in their past 13, dating to last season. Those came from safety Mistral Raymond last Dec. 24 against Washington and cornerback Cedric Griffin last Jan. 1 in the regular-season finale at Chicago.

Creating turnovers on Sunday against the 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith at the Metrodome isn't going to be easy.

Kendall Hunter's fumble on a kickoff in San Francisco's victory over Detroit on Sunday night ended a streak of 26 quarters spanning six consecutive regular-season games without a turnover. The 49ers also had gone 36 consecutive quarters without a lost fumble, dating to Nov. 6 last year at Washington.

The 49ers were trying to equal the 2010 Patriots for the NFL record of seven games without a turnover. Smith, meanwhile, hasn't thrown an interception in a franchise-record 216 attempts, dating to Nov. 24 of last season.

"We're close on some opportunities, and I'm hoping this week that we'll get a couple," coach Leslie Frazier said. "(San Francisco) is a team that does not turn the ball over.

"We need some turnovers, whether it's a caused fumble or an interception, and I'm hopeful this is a where we are ball hawks against a team that doesn't turn it over very much. ... It'll be a challenge in that area, but if there was ever a week you'd want to get some turnovers, this would be it."

Focusing the run

The Vikings lack of a vertical passing game means teams are beginning to put more defenders in the box in order to stop the run. This dares quarterback Christian Ponder to throw the ball down the field, but so far the Vikings haven't proven they can hit on long passes.

"We saw it last week against Indy," Frazier said. "The first ball game we got more two high safeties, which we were surprised that they would defend us that way. I'm sure it was partially because of Adrian (Peterson) coming back and not being certain where he was.

"That philosophy changed in the first game and for sure against Indy it was a lot more eight-man fronts as the game went on."

Peterson, who tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last Dec. 24, returned for the opener against the Jaguars and rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns. He rushed for 60 yards on 16 attempts at Indianapolis.

"(Peterson is) coming along," Frazier said. "I think people are to the point right now where they're saying, 'You know what? We have to make sure we're defending 28.' We're seeing that and we're expecting that again. San Francisco has an outstanding rush defense, so we'll be challenged to run the football. But we'll need to be able to run."

Asked how close Peterson is to being 100 percent, Frazier said: "I think he's pretty close. He's doing just about everything you would expect. If you talk to him he'll say he's not quite there yet and you have to take him at his word. But he's doing a lot of good things where he is. He's playing well."

No worries

Despite the fact the Vikings were called for 11 penalties on Sunday, defensive end Everson Griffen said that worrying about infractions wouldn't be a wise move.

"If you go out there and worry about the penalties, then you ain't going to get nothing done, you know what I'm saying?' Griffen said. "You've just got to go out there and play football, and if a penalty happens or something like that, you've just got to move on. Mistakes happen in football and the biggest thing for us to do is just move on and go on to the next play. You can't dwell in the past."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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